It's tough to be a feminist these days.
Has anyone else noticed this? Has anyone else noticed the looks people give you when the f-word is mentioned? When you make a comment about the gender imbalance clear in a novel or discussion of a historical event? I have espcially noticed this this year. In English, we read one of the few contemporary novels on the reading list through all of high school: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I read this book a few months before the class started, just to get a head start on the reading list. I immediately read it again. And again during the course. I loved it. I was so excited to discuss it with my class.
Unfortunately, what could have been a great discussion about women's issues and the values that Atwood is discussing in her speculative fiction, the class quickly became about criticising the main character's values, as well as the feministic values of Atwood. Note that "feminism" became a dirty word in that class.
Hello girls! Do you not believe in equal opportunities for men and for women? Yes? Then YOU ARE A FEMINIST. And no, it doesn't mean you need to stop shaving or wearing a bra, it doesn't mean you have to be a dyke, and it especially doesn't mean you have to hate men.
I have read a few articles over the past few month discussing what has happenned to women's lib in this millenial* generation. Old bra-burners write in editorials to magazines poking fun at consumer feminism and wondering what happenned to all their hard work. Well here is what happenned: every generation makes it their goal to rebel against what came before them. This generation saw only the hairy armpits and the braless boobs that came before and said "No thanks". A generation of women gave their daughters freedom in an attempt to empower them and then watched them go right back to the Barbies and plastic, dress-up high-heels. Feminism came to mean hippies and communes. Sleek, hairless, small-waisted, big-chested, "bootylicious" bodies became the way of the "future". Kind of sick, right?
So this is where I came in. To life, that is. I was a Barbie kid; I can't even count how many I had. I had a pink room and dressed up like a princess, sucking in my stomach to imagine curves on my eight-year-old-frame. I read any fashion magazine I could get my hands on and wondered about boyfriends and lipstick. That's what being a girl is all about, right?
Well, no. Not really. After years I spent years of low self-esteem and tagging along with my peers, my mother read an add in the newspaper for something called "Moondance." I don't remember exactly what the add said, but there was a picture of a girl with long hair, arms raised in the air toward a huge crescent moon, and below it something about "No mirrors. No pressure." There was a teenager in the add. I was twelve. I volunteered right away. I had no idea what to expect.
I can't remember it very well, due to a horse-back riding incident a few weeks later that concussed me and (I'm convinced) robbed me of valuable memories. Anyway. I do remember walking in and seeing a few other girls, some older, some younger, some skinnier, some bigger, and looking around at the old classroom and wondering "what am I in for?" Moondance was a brainchild of Ann Pitman, a beautiful woman with grey hair that wore her wrinkles more gracefully than any other person I've ever met. After our mothers had been shooed out, Ann had us stand in a circle and she put on some music. She told us to move. Most of us didn't move. I think I blushed bright red and tried to sink through the floor. Ann watched us a moment, then quietly she told us to listen to the music and listen to our bodies, and dance. At first it was hard; we all wanted to make sure we looked good to everyone else, but then we closed our eyes and something incredible happenned. We danced. At the time I had no idea how amazing and incredible this was, but now I know that that time changed me immensly.
Over the eight-week session we make masks, we sewed pouches, we read goddess stories, we danced... including dancing a maypole one day, and then interpreting it. We'd sit in a circle and pass a conch shell around talking about dreams and goals. My confidence level went way up. The best part was that it started a growth in me that continues to this day. And I truly believe Moondance was where my feminism started. That's where I learned that feminism is cool. It is so freaking cool.
At school some people only know me as the girl with dyke-y hair, or the girl on the improv team but what I want everyone to know is that I am a feminist. I give myself that label. Whether it's a class discussion of a book or a conversation about current events, I make sure to be a strong feminist voice. I get poked at more because of it, sometimes, sure, and sometimes I mess up -- I'm still learning my own voice and beliefs. But I want to do it in case someone else is thinking the same things but doesn't have their voice yet. I'm not afraid anymore. I'm not afraid to be labeled a feminist.
PS: My improv necklace is the symbol of Avalon. I wear it every day now.
*apparently this is the label for my generation. 83-93. ish.